Autoimmune diseases (AID) are caused by an inappropriate autoantibody production and immune complex formation against auto-antigens. This phenomenon can be seen predominantly in women, who represent 4/5th of all AID-affected patients worldwide. Moreover, female gender appears to be a major risk factor for polyautoimmunity. This large difference in the incidence rate between men and women suggests a strong influence of sex hormones on the innate and adaptive immune system, not to mention genetic, lifestyle factors and environmental influences. The strong link between steroidal hormones and their impact on the immune system has been extensively investigated. However, not all results from in vitro studies or mouse models can be transferred to humans. For example, a study in rodents suggested that female animals rejected allografts faster than male animals, results that could not be proven in humans.
However, these data already suggest a link between the immune system and hormonal factors. Estrogen is known to stimulate the production of Th2-lymphcytes and, therefore, the neoformation of antibodies by type 2 cytokines, whereas androgen stimulates Th1-cells and reduces T-helper cells by producing Th1 cytokines. Physiological cycles in hormone levels during menses, menopause, pregnancy, or hormonal substitution therapy can, therefore, either improve or cause an exacerbation of an AID . Thus, sex hormones are also believed to play a major role in the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD).
The Influence of Female Health Issues on the Development of Autoimmune
Thyroid Disease: Pecnik P, Promberger R and Johannes Ott
Last date updated on July, 2014